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Sunday, September 25, 2022

In defense of the lady: Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi

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Paul Tena
Paul Tena is an alumnus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Politixxx Today and he also traverses into fiction writing in his spare time. Sometimes he goes by his pen name JPE Tena. His debut novel, The Lore Kingdom, was named an Honorable Mention in 2021 Lampara Prize. For more information, you may reach him via tenajpe@gmail.com.
Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi listens to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as he addresses reporters during a news conference that followed their bilateral meeting on May 22, 2016, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

For decades, Aung San Suu Kyi was portrayed in the most flattering light–from the grace and courage of the peacock to the beauty of the water hyacinth. As the symbol of hope, she earned legions of supporters around the world. Many showered her with accolades including, arguably, the most prestigious award in the world, the Nobel Prize. The twist of fate for her, however, became an epitome of the cliché that all good things must come to an end.

Her Story

The daughter to nationalist and hero, Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi need not move a muscle to earn admiration. She just exuded inherent charm. So much so, that during the height of protests in then Burma during the 1980s, she quickly became the figure of the opposition from the oppressive regime under General Ne Win. As a consequence for her people’s desire for freedom, Aung San Suu Kyi’s peaceful resistance became the battle cry of her supporters. Still, the 8888 uprising proved to be unsuccessful. The ruling dictatorship held its power even longer.

For years, detention became her home. She was far from her husband and two children who lived in the United Kingdom. Eventually, though Aung San Suu Kyi was set free, the ruling powers of Myanmar barred those with spouses and children who have foreign citizenship from being the Head of State. The challenges did not come as a surprise. Through it all, Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won the electorate’s hearts by a landslide margin.

The Blunt Obstacle

As Myanmar’s State Counsellor, her limited powers can only do so much. The critics will not take anything for an answer. Many of the naysayers impose a huge weight on her shoulders. After all, Suu Kyi remains to be Myanmar’s face in international affairs. The detractors expect her to be the Nobel fairy that can heal complex situations and bring about progress in the sway of her wand.

Nobody also points out the mental torture that she’s been through as a frequent target of detention since time immemorial. Plus, as of writing, she moved past the height of her physical strength. In short, she needs a break. But the Lady presses on her mission. She continues to bring about the promise of democracy despite the internal and external forces that pull her in every direction. She remains calm but the same serenity is taken as complacency–if not downright incompetence.

The Case

In January 2020, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an initial decision in the case filed by the Gambia against Myanmar.  During the hearings, State Counsellor Suu Kyi maintained her grace as the face of her people. Though the trial has yet to arrive at a final halt, the world continues to pin her with the responsibility of the alleged genocide against the Rohingya. Truly, the situation is far more complicated than it seems. Both sides of the spectrum must be fleshed out thoroughly in order to arrive at a reasonable conclusion.

Now, I do not wish to fill in the shoes of the ICJ. We should let the wisdom of the court to cast the light in the situation. One thing’s certain: Aung San Suu Kyi can only do so much. The blame game will not solve the issue and putting pressure on Suu Kyi must be taken with considerations. True, that the demand on accountability must be held against the Myanmar government but the same must be taken with a grain of salt–especially for Suu Kyi. The point is she whose hands are nowhere to be found in the Rohingya fiasco must not carry a burden which is too much to bear.

Upholding Accountability

Numerous documentaries and articles compile the alleged ethnic cleansing. For sure, we must demand justice for those who suffered from relentless persecution and make whoever is responsible for such atrocities to pay the consequence, if proven properly.

However, the problem here lies in the fact that nobody raises the security concern of Myanmar in the disputed Rakhine state. Critics, in particular, never point that there is also an insurgency in the region. This must be resolved as well. In the same vein, the terrorists must also be held accountable for using civilians as shields for their separatist agenda.

We should not put our lenses in the situation by cherry-picking whatever seems convenient. Both those who abuse their power and carry out the insurgency plans must be held accountable.

The Light in the Tunnel

From here on, we must be aware of how complicated the situation can get. Let’s quit the finger-pointing. Rather, we should start demanding accountability, not just from Aung San Suu Kyi, but from anyone who sparked the unrest in Rakhine.

The only way to find long-lasting peace is by putting all the cards into the table as we wait for the ICJ’s conclusive decision on the matter. Until then, State Counsellor Suu Kyi and the entirety of Myanmar must be treated with the utmost respect. After all, the Lady is still innocent until proven otherwise.

In the end, we should remember that heroes may be revered, but they are not infallible. State Counsellor Suu Kyi is no exception. Nevertheless, her life is a testament of greatness that should not be tarnished by mere surmises.

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